Yamaha's Marco Melandri led today's first qualifying session at the Motorland Aragon in Spain, the Italian doing what not many have done this season - he got the better of runaway World Championship points leader Carlos Checa.Melandri was the only rider to crack the two-minute barrier on the 3.313-mile track, riding his factory R1 to a best of 1:59.726 late in the session. Hovering close nearby, however, is that man Checa, the Althea Ducati rider .347 of a second behind Melandri at 2:00.073. Checa had gone under two minutes in the morning free practice, but couldn't match that effort in qualifying.
Melandri and his Yamaha team had tested at the circuit following the Monza race in May.Despite a crash in the session, Noriyuki Haga kept his momentum rolling from his third-place finish in the race two at Misano, the PATA Racing Team Aprilia rider posting the third quickest time on opening day - just .039 of a second faster than the first of the factory Aprilias ridden by Brit Leon Camier.Kawasaki's Tom Sykes also stayed on the form he found at Misano, the Brit ending up fifth ahead of World Champion Max Biaggi on the second factory Aprilia. Alstare Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio, BMW Motorrad Italia's Ayrton Badovini, Yamaha's Eugene Laverty and Supersonic Ducati's Maxime Berger rounded out the top 10.The top 10 were separated by just .783 of a second.Every brand but Honda was represented in the top 10 as the entry list is down to just the factory CBR1000RR of Ruben Xaus as Jonathan Rea is out of action following wrist surgery this week. No return date has been penciled in for Rea as the break, suffered last weekend in Misano, was worse than initially diagnosed.Xaus finished day one at Aragon in 13th.
1. Marco Melandri (Yamaha) 1:59.726
2. Carlos Checa (Ducati) 2:00.073
3. Noriyuki Haga (Aprilia) 2:00.214
4. Leon Camier (Aprilia) 2:00.253
5. Tom Sykes (Kawasaki) 2:00.267
6. Max Biaggi (Aprilia) 2:00.309
7. Michel Fabrizio (Suzuki) 2:00.324
8. Ayrton Badovini (BMW) 2:00.377
9. Eugene Laverty (Yamaha) 2:00.503
10. Maxime Berger (Ducati) 2:00.509